Deuteronomy 18:19-20 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.”
Speaking for God is scary business! There are those who seek to prophesy for the sake of the attention it brings them, but this should really give such people pause. We do need to remember that there is a distinction between Old Testament prophets and those under the New Covenant. Under the New Covenant, Paul urges all believers to prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1, 5) However, that doesn’t mean we are to casually start tacking “Thus sayeth the Lord” onto what we say. That is exactly what God is saying here NOT to do. Anyone who has received God’s Spirit is capable of hearing and speaking out what God is saying, and that is the fundamental definition of Biblical prophecy. However, no one should speak out of their own imagination and claim it’s God speaking. Sadly, that’s not unusual. I remember one time in particular when I was at some Charismatic meeting and members of the ministry team were doing “personal prophecy” at the end of the service. The person who spoke over me apparently wrote me off for one reason or another, and what he said was so negative that had I taken it to heart, I would never have tried to do anything for the Lord. It was something along the lines of, “You will do little things to help others.” I’m not averse to doing little things and I ‘m certainly happy to help others, but I’m not going to place any limits on whatever He wants to do through me. (Incidentally, it was a very few months later that I arrived in Japan as a missionary.) As God said through Moses here, if we claim to speak for God, we’d better be listening carefully.
I have been used in prophecy many times over the years, though that is not my primary gifting or calling. However, in my teaching and preaching I desire, and do my utmost, to speak out what God is saying, and that actually fits the definition of prophecy. I have had the experience of speaking out what I was hearing God saying, but He stopped talking and I didn’t. That’s a horrible feeling, and I pray it never happens again. Not long after that experience I was in a service and started speaking out what was in my spirit, but when I felt the flow stop I stopped, even though it was in the middle of a sentence. At that moment, someone on the other side of the room picked it up without the least hesitation, and there was no question it was the Holy Spirit speaking one message through two people. I also remember one time I was interpreting into Japanese for an Indian brother at a meeting in Nagasaki City. To be honest, I found his accent a little hard to understand, but there was a powerful flow, and afterward someone commented that it was like seeing/hearing one person speaking through two mouths. That was glorious! I desire to be an available mouthpiece for God, but I must always remember that the message is His, not mine, and seek to stay out of His way. I know that my personality and experience will color what I say, because that is true of the Biblical writers. However, I must not let that color block out or distort what God is saying.
Father, thank You for this reminder. It fits in with what You spoke to me not long ago about spiritual gifts in this church. Help me indeed speak what You want said, when and how You want to say it, so that individuals and the church as a whole may be encouraged, strengthened, and guided in the way You have planned, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!